I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on 5/26/2015
240 Pages (Hardcover)
Blurb: Best friends, big fans, a mysterious webcomic, and a long-lost girl collide in this riveting novel, perfect for fans of both Cory Doctorow and Sarah Dessen, & illustrated throughout with comics.
Once upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure.
Once upon a few years later, Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her.
Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window.
When May looks around, she sees the Princess everywhere: Stickers. Patches. Graffiti. There’s an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby’s story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon—her best friend, Libby, who lives.
My Take: It has taken me the better part of a week to put my thoughts together enough to form a cohesive and honest review for this book. I will start by admitting that this was a rare time where I judged a book solely by its cover. I grabbed it from the library after seeing a princess wielding a sword because I felt that had to be an awesome book to read. After all, who wouldn’t want to read about a sword-wielding princess that fights her own battles against some enemies? Heck, I still want to read that book. This was not that book. And if I had read the back of the book, I would have known and understood that before checking this out.
All of that being said, this was still a really good book. Not the book I expected to read nor the one I wanted to read, but also not one I regret reading. It is hard to discuss this book, given that there are many mysteries that even discussing the first chapter or two could potentially lead to a spoiler or two, so rather than discussing the book (it is good) or the plot (it is riveting and intriguing!) I will instead focus on what worked well in this book as a complete package. Forgive me for being vague where I need to, but I really would hate to spoil anything for a new reader, and hope that you will be that new reader who picks this one up.
I absolutely loved the integration of the comic book elements into the book. I found them to be fitting with the story and the timing of some provided foreshadowing while others helped to show some of what the main character is reading as she is trying to uncover the mysteries being presented. I am certain that, if I reread the book, I would find a lot of subtle hints hidden in those comic strips that I missed the first time through, which is pretty awesome to think about as well. It was a nice addition to the story and it worked really well for me.
The level of realism that permeates through the plot and the characters is another thing that impressed me. I had a clear sense of who all of the characters were, and even the antagonist (when revealed) made sense and was scary in a “this could really actually happen” sort of way that I can appreciate upon reflection. In fact, the whole plot and the web of mysteries, the twists and turns along the way that pull you along through the story, were all excellent because of the ability to see it being a real situation that could happen. That, more than anything, is where this story succeeds. You bond with the characters, you share in the excitement and the mystery, and you recoil at the proper times because you believe it is possible. Some moments might be a stretch, but it never shifts into the realm where you have to suspend disbelief in order to keep going.
So overall this was a good book and I am glad I read it. This wasn’t a mystery on the same level of greatness as a Sherlock Holmes story, but few are capable of achieving that height. The story surpassed all of my expectations (once they were adjusted to fit what the story actually was rather than what I mistakenly thought it should be) and I can confidently recommend this to anyone who is looking to pick up a short and interesting mystery. The fact that it is a Young Adult mystery makes it a fast read, and the comics interspersed throughout also aid to that. It is definitely the sort of book you could pick up and read in a day, or at least a weekend, and I highly recommend that you do so. It’ll be a more rewarding investment of time and money than going to a movie.